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Delta Dental of California Senior Oral Health Priority

Addressing the senior oral health crisis

Improving the oral health and wellness of older adults is a priority for Delta Dental. Learn more about how we’re addressing this critical issue.

Why focus on senior oral health?

Our  Senior Oral Health Survey Report, revealed that 72% of Americans aged 50 and older wish they had taken better care of their teeth in youth, yet many still aren’t doing so. With oral health linked to heart, brain and mental health, dentists encourage following the “rule of 2-1-2”

As our seniors are facing an oral health crisis due to unique challenges and barriers to access that have significant overall health implications, this report offers valuable insights to help support Delta Dental's commitment to providing older adults with consistent, quality access to oral health care, improving education and driving lasting policy changes to address systemic issues.

Senior Oral Health and Mental Well-Being: A Vital Connection. 37% say oral tooth pain intensifies feelings of depression or hopelessness. 57% feel shame about their oral health and appearance of their teeth. 60% worry about being negatively judged on the appearance of their teeth. 80% said the simple act of smiling can make them feel happier.

May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, during which we conducted a comprehensive survey among seniors to explore the unexpected correlation between oral health and mental well-being.

The findings are part of  Delta Dental’s 2023 Senior Mental and Oral Health Report, which asked more than 1,000 older Americans about their oral health habits and stratified their self-reported indications of mental wellbeing.

Mental health issues cause many seniors to neglect their oral health, and poor oral health in turn causes many older Americans to experience mental health issues, creating a harmful feedback loop of mouth pain, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem among Americans aged 50 and up.

What is the Senior Oral Health Program?

This program addresses the senior oral health care crisis through partnerships with community-based coalitions focused on improving access to care. Its multifaceted approach aspires to improve the health of our aging adults, particularly those in marginalized communities.

Learn more about our motivations, approach, and the achievements and learnings from the first year of implementation in the  Senior Oral Health Coalition Program Annual Report.

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Our coalition program partners

In collaboration with our coalition partners in Washington, D.C., Howard University College of Dentistry and Mary’s Center, and in California, Dientes Community Dental Care and Salud Para La Gente, this program promotes the connection between oral health and overall health, provides quality outcomes, improves accessibility and creates greater equity in the care and treatment older adults receive. Insights collected throughout the program will be utilized to identify effective solutions and inform the Delta Dental Senior Oral Health Care Model, which will be replicated as the program develops. The program will expand to form coalitions with other community partners.

Howard University College of Dentistry

Howard University is one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The College of Dentistry was founded in 1881 and is the country’s fifth oldest dental school. The College has trained thousands of dental professionals who serve communities around the world. 

Mary's Center

For more than 30 years, Mary’s Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center, has been serving people of all ages, incomes and backgrounds from the Washington, DC metro area.

Dientes Community Dental Care

Dientes Community Dental Care works to ensure that cost, insurance, income, race, language and transportation do not prevent people from visiting the dentist in Santa Cruz County.

Salud Para La Gente

Salud Para La Gente serves as a “health home” and provides high-quality, comprehensive and cost-effective health care to its community members in Santa Cruz and North Monterey Counties.

Dientes Community Dental Care

Dientes Community Dental Care works to ensure that cost, insurance, income, race, language and transportation do not prevent people from visiting the dentist in Santa Cruz County.

Salud Para La Gente Working Together for a Healthy Community

Salud Para La Gente serves as a “health home” and provides high-quality, comprehensive and cost-effective health care to its community members in Santa Cruz and North Monterey Counties.

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation is currently accepting proposals from California-based applicants to form our third community-based Senior Oral Health Coalition. The selected coalition will be granted up to $5 million in total over a five-year period to promote systemic change in access to care for senior oral health. We invite you to review this request for proposals and submit a coalition application   by the deadline of November 10, 2023.

Goals of the program

Identify, assess and address the socioeconomic and systemic causes of poor oral health among older adults, particularly those living in poverty

Create a replicable model for community-driven oral health solutions

Improve quality of life for seniors by reducing oral care disparities

Other senior oral health partners

UCLA School of Dentistry

The UCLA School of Dentistry MINDFUL Project addresses the public health crisis facing older adults by increasing access to comprehensive oral health care.

Meals on Wheels San Francisco

Meals on Wheels San Francisco works on the front lines to support the critical nutritional needs of low-income seniors with health challenges, including poor oral health, facing limited or no access to food.

Emory University

Utilizing new biomedical technology, Emory University monitors, diagnoses and treats senior adults and expectant mothers who face oral health disparities.

State University of New York at Buffalo

The State University of New York at Buffalo provides care to seniors and individuals living with intellectual or developmental disabilities, educates providers to care for these populations, and promotes prevention and oral health literacy.

Take a deeper look at what we do

For Mental Health Awareness Month, we conducted a comprehensive survey among seniors.

Learn more about how the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation helps Gary and many other older adults receive the assistance they need.

Recent news

Get the latest insights on how Delta Dental is addressing senior oral health care.


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